Good morning, Friends! I hope you’re all doing well this week.
This morning I want to wish a special blessing and a happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who are hearing or watching this message. I also want to wish a special blessing to everyone who has a mother, or who has had a mother.
I also want us to remember the people who want to be parents, but aren’t able to have children for any reason. We love you and we care for you.
Our scripture today is from the gospel of Matthew. It’s a story which is also told in Mark and Luke, so it’s important. It’s from Matthew chapter 19, verses 13 to 15.
Some people brought little children to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on the children and pray for them. But the disciples told them not to do it.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.” Jesus placed his hands on them to bless them.Matthew 19:13-15
Jesus loved children. As far as we know, he never had any children of his own. Except that all the children of the whole world belong to Jesus.
It says that people brought their children to Jesus to be blessed.
Some of the kids were probably sick. There were a lot of serious childhood diseases back then, and not many doctors. Other kids might have had problems they were born with.
And people probably brought their children to Jesus to be blessed, because the times were troubled. Parents didn’t know how things would be for their children as they grew up.
Whatever. It says that Jesus’ friends tried to shoo them away, because they thought Jesus was too important to bother with little kids.
That got Jesus really upset. He said, “No, let them come! Bring them here! Don’t stop them! The kingdom of heaven belongs to children like these. . .” And he scooped the children up in his arms and blessed them.
I always love that story. It makes Jesus seem so approachable – less infinite, and more intimate.
It’s important, that with all of our grown-up problems and questions, with all our big projects and concerns, that we don’t block little children from being close to Jesus.
The things we worry about are important. But it’s even more important that no one, especially children, be kept from coming to sit in Jesus’ lap so he can hold them and bless them.
It’s so important for children to grow up with a feeling of being loved and blessed. It’s one of the most important gifts we can give. We work so hard to give our children lots of material things. But most of the time, what they really need is something different. Children want to be loved, and they want to be blessed.
In another version of this same story, in Matthew chapter 18, Jesus says, “Whoever makes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for that person to have a great big millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea. . .”
Think about our children, how basically loving and trusting and good they are. And then think about the fact that it’s grown-ups who teach them to do anything really bad.
Grown-ups are the ones who teach kids that killing is all right. Grown-ups are the ones who sell the alcohol and the drugs, and who show by example that using things to destroy your mind is OK.
Grown-ups produce and sponsor all those movies and TV shows that we wish kids wouldn’t watch.
If children everywhere only had decent, thoughtful, loving and patient grown-ups to turn to, to listen to them and mentor them, a lot of hurt and brokenness would be out of business in a single generation.
Kids pick up, not just on what we say, but everything about us. They pick up on our actions, our attitudes, our worries, and everything else about us.
Kids are a whole lot sharper and more observant than we think. They learn from us. And sometimes they learn things we wish they wouldn’t.
Think about the children of our meeting, and the children of the school next door, or any other children you know. And ask yourself, “What have I done to influence each one of these kids, one way or another?”
It’s not just up to parents. Parents bear the greatest responsibility. But as soon as kids start meeting other people like you and me, it’s up to all of us to show them how to live, and especially to show we love them.
Every child in our meeting should be able to look back when they’re grown up and say, “Gee, they sure cared about me. I’ve never had so many friends in all my life as I had back then. Every single one of those people cared for me, and I remember what they told me.” If our children can say that about the church, then we’ve done our job well.
But then Jesus went on to say one of the most challenging things in the entire gospel. “Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me, but the one who sends me. . .”
In a really famous passage, in Matthew chapter 25, Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to me. . .”
And people said, “Hey, wait a minute! When did that happen?” And Jesus replied, “When you did it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me. . .”
To that list of people, to the hungry and thirsty, to strangers and sick people, naked and prisoners, we can add the children. Whatever we do to any of these, says Jesus, we are doing to him. What we do for the least of these, we do for Christ himself.
Of course, we all get busy. We’d like to get on with our own business in life.
And Jesus says, “No. If you love me, then love my brothers and my sisters. Love these little children. Love them! It’s the same as if you were doing it for me, in person. I am those other people. I am those little children.”
See, God isn’t invisible. God isn’t hiding from us. If you want to see the face of Jesus, just look at the children, or anybody who needs help. That’s what Christ looks like. Christ looks like you and me.
Jesus isn’t somebody with a robe and a beard. The face of Christ is there on everyone we meet. Whenever we see a need, or whenever we witness somebody giving of themself with love, the Lord is there. Christ is in all of us, and it’s up to us to respond.
I think it helps if, every time we do something, we say, “This one’s for you, Lord. . .”
It doesn’t have to be a big deal. We don’t have to make a Broadway production out of it and say, “Here, my friend, I am doing this wonderful thing for you, because I am such a good person!” That’s not the point at all. Jesus had some harsh words for the hypocrites who blew their own horn whenever they performed an act of charity.
But it’s OK to say the same thing secretly and privately. “I’m doing this for you, Lord,” or, “Lord, this is my gift for you.” It doesn’t have to be said out loud. It can be said in our hearts.
Because consciously doing things for God makes a difference, just as giving thanks all the time makes a difference, and asking for God’s help with all sorts of things every day makes a difference.
It makes a difference to God, because it turns everything we do into a greeting and a prayer. And it makes a difference to us, because we start living closer to God. It really helps.
If there’s one thing I hope you’ll all remember today, it’s that Jesus loves the little children. And he wants us to love them, too. Not just our own children, our own flesh and blood. Jesus wants us to love all children, the same way that Jesus does.
If those children have needs, it’s up to us to help them. If there’s work to do, all of us have to help do it. Because the kingdom of heaven is in little children, and the face of every child is the face of Christ’s need and Christ’s joy.
Love your children. And bless them. Tell them you’re proud of them. Pray for them. Let them know you’re praying. Tell them, every day, that you love them, and that God loves them.
Today, we honor our mothers. We honor all the work they do, and the love they share. We honor the ones who gave us birth, and nursed us when we were little.
We also honor those “extra mothers” – the ones who taught us, who read to us, who challenged us and shared their faith with us. They did God’s work. They lived what Jesus said.
They may not have been perfect – probably weren’t – but they blessed us. And we bless God and thank God for them today.
Thank you for being with us this morning. Stay well, and stay safe.
If you belong to Springfield, please support and send in your donations if you can. We do need your help! If you belong to some other fellowship, then support them. Help everyone you can, and live your faith this week.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.